There is no shame having ‘mental illness’ by Martin Vye

In many people’s minds the phrase ‘mental illness ‘means a psychosis from which a very small minority of the population suffers. In reality, though, it covers a wide range of mental and emotional conditions that seriously affect a person’s ability to lead a satisfying and happy life. It is calculated that as many as one in five of us are suffering from mental ill-health at any given time. Most people suffer from depression and anxiety at some time in their lives and get over it. However, circumstances, or personality, can cause these emotions to become permanently crippling conditions Unfortunately the percentage is even greater in children and young people, and we have to assume this reflects the additional pressures of modern life on individuals as they grow up.

Mental health services have always been the poor relation of the NHS, and constant financial pressures have made the situation worse. For example, the waiting list for children and young people to access therapy designed for them is growing.

Fortunately, there is a large number of voluntary/ not-for-profit organisations that are able to help. In Canterbury they provide counselling and therapy for people suffering from deep depression, excessive anxiety, the effects of bereavement, and many more conditions.

Here are two examples:
There are still many who are wary, even frightened, of meeting people with mental health conditions. For their part the latter often feel stigmatised and lonely in the wider community. The Canterbury Umbrella Centre, in St Petr’s Place, is trying to break down this barrier. It is a wonderfully secure refuge for vulnerable people, where they can learn skill, play games, get advice. The main area downstairs, though, is a café, the Social Kitchen, offering refreshments and meals at a very reasonable price. More people from the wider community are finding their way there—and just being there, drinking a cup of coffee in pleasant surroundings, helps to break down the sense of isolation that people with mental health conditions suffer from. The Salus Group, another example, is doing brilliant work in Canterbury schools for children and young people suffering from anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, the effects of domestic violence. They provide experienced counsellors and organise anti-bullying sessions. Other organisations help adults with a wide variety of conditions, including bereavement, bipolar disorder, and head injury. Also, so that people can accurately detect the beginnings of mental and emotional problems, in relatives, friends or work colleagues, there are excellent courses on Mental Health First Aid available.

If you feel you might be interested in helping people with mental health conditions do contact me on moc.liamg@eyvjnitram and I can point you in the right direction.

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